Special-Edition Viewpoints Address The Pandemic Crisis

In the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, pathways and opportunities in technology commercialization are undergoing dramatic transformation on many fronts. In an effort to address Explorer clients' urgent need to understand both the near- and longer-term impacts, we are providing a special set of analyses about the pandemic's impact on technology commercialization that will replace the standard May and June 2020 Viewpoints publications. (Read the full announcement about these special analyses.)

  • The May 2020 documents identify a wide range of key forces that will likely have a major influence on prospects for six consequential technology domains, imagining a plausible range of alternative outcomes that these forces could have during the coming five to ten years. These outcomes serve as building blocks for creating effective responses to the pandemic.
  • The June 2020 documents will provide a scenarios-based analysis for each of the six technology domains, with emphasis on how the key uncertain forces might interact and influence commercialization pathways in alternative postpandemic futures.

Because the developments we describe affect multiple technologies, we have organized our standard Technology Areas into six technology domains. We encourage clients to engage with all six special-edition Viewpoints to gain a broad view of potential changes and opportunities in technology commercialization. Please contact us if you do not already have access to all six technology domains, and we will be happy to provide you with the remaining articles in the collection.

Viewpoints

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About This Technology

Use of the metabolic pathways of microorganisms to catalyze chemical reactions in commercial processes—in competition with conventional inorganic catalysts—has become increasingly practical and affordable to many industries in recent years. Biocatalytic reactions are generally more energy efficient, have lower cost, and produce less hazardous waste than inorganic catalytic reactions. Biocatalysts have use in many sectors, including the food, textile, pharmaceutical, and chemical and energy industries. Within these industries, biocatalysts have many applications, ranging from product synthesis (for example, pharmaceutical and ethanol manufacture) through use as active agents in products (for example, in detergents) to use in diagnostic testing equipment and as therapeutic agents.

Biocatalysts have use in both industrial (commodity) and specialty (low-volume) applications. The attributes necessary to succeed in developing and selling these two distinct product types differ. Commodity applications work on high-volume production and are price sensitive. Often supplier–customer relationships are long-standing and difficult to break. Commodity biocatalyst users have a reputation for conservatism. Specialty biocatalysts sell in low volumes and are generally useful in applications for which the enzyme is a small but value-added component or for which addition of the enzyme either facilitates performance or leads to a performance improvement that justifies its cost of use. Such an application would be a therapeutic enzyme or an enzyme for use in a diagnostic kit. Areas showing a potential for market growth and for technological innovation include the development of engineered enzymes (providing faster throughput, cheaper production, or the capability to produce novel products), pollution-control systems or lower-polluting industrial processes (such as pulp and paper manufacture), nonaqueous biocatalytic systems (for use in applications such as oil and fat bioprocessing), and manufacturing processes for producing specific compounds (for example, biopharmaceuticals).

Biocatalyst companies are now accelerating the advancement of biocatalyst and bioprocess knowledge to exploit these emerging opportunities. At the same time, successful companies understand that the exploitation of biocatalyst opportunities requires a long-term commitment. More and more companies in a variety of industry sectors are now investing significant research dollars in exploring biotech opportunities. The continued growth in interest in the commercial use of biocatalysis and continuing technological innovation coupled to the fragmentation of the biocatalyst industry allow both large and small companies to exploit innovative biocatalysts, products, and processes.